Applying for a tech job is pretty tough these days, but the hardest part of getting any job is usually the job interview. The following three tips will help you get through the process unscathed, and with a new job.
You can get that job if you want it bad enough. You don’t have to be a genius and you don’t have to be Mr. Personality. You just need to be real.
In my own life, I’ve gone through about seven interview processes, and landed five technology jobs — including one University help desk manager job, two engineering internships, one full-time engineering job at a major aerospace company, and a full-time IT job at a major life sciences company.
I’m going to share what I’ve learned from those experiences with you.
1. You Don’t Need Every Single Qualification
Believe it or not, the typical job ad is not always written by the people who are actually doing the hiring. HR folks will often collate job requirements from several people at the company, and then they’ll put together the most accurate, professional-sounding ad.
If you’re at the job-hunting phase right now, you’ll find some really helpful job-hunting resources and tips from Matt Smith. Dan recently covered JobSamurai, which can help with job hunting. Of course, as Dann explained, LinkedIn is always a great job hunting resource.
Here’s a sample ad for an IT Director job:
The required skillset on this job listing is significantly less than what’s listed on most other job ads for an IT Director role.
There are a number of possible reason for this:
- The person who wrote the ad wasn’t fully aware of just how much technology background and training is required for the role.
- The business doesn’t want to pay a very large salary to fill the role.
- No one at the business has a sense of what’s really required for the job.
- The role really doesn’t require much skill, because most higher-level responsibilities are handled by others.
When you’re applying for such a job, you really don’t know which is the case, so it’s usually a good idea to look for and apply for the jobs that are professionally written, even if you feel like you don’t “qualify” based on many of the requirements. Well written ads can actually make job applicants feel that way — even when it’s not the case.
Take a look at this more professionally-written job ad for IT Director.
So here’s a list of the type of skills you’d expect for someone in an IT Director role. While application and system knowledge requirements are specific enough, they’re also wide enough in scope so that if you have a background in a different, but similar technology, you basically still qualify.
The bottom line is, don’t give up on a job ad just because you don’t have knowledge of specific applications or systems. If you have a background in at least 70% of what they’re asking for — that may actually be good enough, especially if you show a clear desire to learn more on the job.
2. Admit You’re Nervous, and then Relax
So you’ve applied to the job, and got your first interview. As the interview day approaches, you find yourself getting more nervous and wondering what you got yourself into.
That feeling is normal, even for the most qualified, well-trained, well-educated person.
Well-known English movie director Richard Eyre once said,
“I can’t think of anyone I admire who isn’t fueled by self-doubt. It’s an essential ingredient. It’s the grit in the oyster.”
You’re afraid that you’re not good enough; that you don’t have the right skills, enough education, or enough experience.
Having been on both the giving and receiving end of interviews, I can tell you this — the most impressive thing about a person is their attitude. It isn’t the diploma, the list of past jobs, or the litany of letters after their name — it’s how they look you in the eyes when talking to you, how they smile when you say something meaningful to them, and how they make you feel like an old friend when you’re sitting across from them and chatting.
Is it hard to be that type of person? Not with a little bit of practice. The key is to release your stress prior to the start of the interview. There are a few little tricks that you can use to do this.
- Deep breathing. Just 10 minutes prior to the interview can make a world of difference.
- Get a massage. The day before your interview, get a 60 minute massage. The long-term calming effects of massage will leave you feeling calm, cool and collected as you walk into the interview room the next day.
- Get some exercise. Get a nice dose of endorphins, a natural stress-reliever, the day before your interview. If you need to choose between massage or exercise, choose exercise.
- Admit you’re nervous. One of the most effective ways to destroy anxiety is to put it out there. Apologize to the interviewer after shaking hands, for the cold hands due to you being nervous. The interviewer will likely say something to put you at ease, and it’ll make you both feel better. They will view that as you being “real” with them.
9/10ths of the battle when it comes to any kind of anxiety — whether it’s a job interview, a public speech, a TV or radio interview, or anything else — is in getting your body to relax. Once you do, everything else comes much easier. There are plenty of online tools that can help with relaxing too — use them, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes!
3. Tell What You’ve Done, But Focus on What They Need
Before you go into the interview, do your research. Before you walk into that interview room, you should know all of the following.
- What is the company’s product(s) and who are its customers?
- What is the company’s mission statement? For example, Johnson & Johnson writes on their site that they are “…dedicated to health and well-being”.
- Study the job description and requirements. Memorize them.
- Learn as much as you can about the person(s) who will be interviewing you.
All of this information provides you with special insight into how you can tell your interviewer exactly what they want to hear. You can prepare for their list of questions by doing your research.
During an interview, it’ll be tempting to try and fit as much about what you’ve accomplished in your career, or during your college training, in order to impress the interviewer.
It doesn’t work.
Baltimore Colts football player Johnny Unitas once said,
“Conceit is bragging about yourself. Confidence means you believe you can get the job done.”
The only difference between the two is the focus of what you’re bragging about. You want the focus to be the things that the interviewer is looking for.
If you discover that the company is trying to improve its business intelligence, then obviously their ears will perk up when you start talking about business data analysis work that you’ve done in the past. If they’re trying to automate a section of the factory, they will definitely take interest when you start talking about your past automation experience.
It isn’t so much impressing anyone, it’s saying the things that they’re hoping you’ll say. The job ad itself is the first insight into what they want to hear, and even if that’s all you have to go on, it’s a good outline to what your talking points should be during the interview.
Do you have an upcoming job interview that you’re nervous about? Have you had your own successful job interview and have some tips to help out others going through the same thing? Share your advice in the comments section below!